Wondering which VR system will suit your needs best ?
The selection is rather abundant these days. The better known ones are:
Acer, Daydream, Dell Visor, Gear VR, HP, HTC Vive & Vie Pro, Lenovo Explorer, Oculus Go & Rift, Mirage Solo, PSVR and Samsung Odyssey.
If you wanted to compare each of them to each other, you would end up with 78 comparison pairs.
Comparison tables can look quite intimidating too!
Is there a quick and painless route ?
This article will help you to evaluate all the major devices without breaking a sweat.
The whole process is laid out as a decision tree. At each stage you will make a selection narrowing down the available choices.
All devices are arranged in groups which share certain key characteristics. Each stage of a decision tree is constructed as a list of major pros & cons comparing one group against the other.
You simply work your way down the tree until you end up with a handful of devices. At this point some minor differences and current price deals will help you make a final call.
Let’s go !
Please read from the start to go through the entire decision tree. Links peppered throughout the text will let you skip the sections which are not applicable in your case.
To cut a long story short – it is likely that initially, VR will make you sick. It takes some time and patience to develop “VR legs”.
You shouldn’t start with a fast paced dog-fight and try to force yourself through it. This may result in a retch every time you try VR again, not to mention a few stains on the carpet.
Start with something slow where you can stand still and just interact with the environment.
Once you put your hands on a headset you shouldn’t cut corners with adjustments, especially with respect to IPD. Without doing this correctly, you may end up in a wonderland where proportions between your body and other objects are weird. This tends to result in nasty headaches.
You can measure your IPD using a mirror and a ruler or a webcam. Just remember that if it is above the 67 mm range, any software correction in most cases won’t be good enough and you should consider getting a headset with a hardware adjustment mechanism.
The third thing to bear in mind is a problem of accommodating your glasses (yawn – skip).
In general VR headsets are more comfortable without glasses. The level of comfort when you use them varies from headset to headset between good and problematic.
For some systems you can get a correction insert which you mount inside the headset.
Other than that, if your giant goggles are too huge to fit into the headset, maybe you should think about contact lenses.
That’s health & safety covered.
Let’s start with the cheapest products (a serious gamer ? – then skip).
The cheapest is probably Google cardboard. To use it you will need a suitable smartphone. There are a bunch of other options (notably: Gear VR and Daydream) which require a smartphone as well.
All these headsets simply allow you to attach your phone to your head and use it as a screen and a hardware platform for games and other experiences.
The biggest flaw of these devices is a lack of positional tracking.
Other major limits are discussed here.
If you plan to use VR a lot, you should consider standalone VR headsets (die-hard gamer ? – then skip).
Oculus Go and Mirage Solo require neither a smartphone nor any other additional hardware. They work on their own (there are more devices of this type coming up e.g. Vive Focus, Oculus Santa Cruz).
Oculus Go lacks positional tracking so if you are fine with that you should investigate further. At this point I won’t evaluate it in more details.
Mirage Solo provides positional tracking but only for the headset. Controllers feature only orientation tracking. Just like with Oculus Go, I don’t cover this in more detail at the moment.
The best VR experience you can get is delivered by devices powered either by PlayStation 4 or a PC (take me straight to the very best).
Neither of them are cheap (a few hundred for the headset alone), so you should consider these only if you are a serious gamer, that is, someone who plays at least a couple of hours every week.
Even though these devices are top of the line, they share some shortcomings. You need to be aware of them before you proceed.
Pros of PSVR:
- the price of PlayStation 4 is at least two times lower than any VR capable PC
Note: PSVR requires PlayStation 4, other systems rely on a PC.
- there are no problems with using any content for PSVR
In theory any VR game for a PC can be used with any VR system for this platform. In practise you may run into problems if the game was not tested/created for the system you happen to have.
- no software conflicts
At times you’ll find that on a PC, after you install the required software, there is a chance that it won’t work properly because of the conflicts with other programs.
- no hardware compatibility issues
For a PC, some pieces of hardware are notorious for turning people gray – particularly USB 3.0. Out of all the VR systems for PC, only Vive doesn’t use this version of the port (note that Vive Pro does).
- Aim Controller
It is an excellent “gun” for PSVR. On a PC, there is a tracker for the Vive which could be attached to a “gun” or anything else for that matter. Currently however, there is not much you can do with it.
- the headset accommodates glasses well
- more living room friendly than a PC
Cons of PSVR in comparison with PC VR:
- less content
There is a decent amount, just not as much as for a PC.
- no room-scale VR
PSVR supports only sitting & standing experiences. The play area for a PC VR is bigger.
- Move Controllers are inferior to the PC counterparts.
You cannot turn away from the camera which tracks them and the tracking itself can be erratic for more dynamic games.
- the price of the PSVR (excluding PlayStation 4) is in the same price range as cheaper VR systems for a PC (excluding a PC itself of course)
However, the cost of PSVR + PS4 is lower than PC VR + suitable PC.
- impossible to use for work
PC programs with a VR interface can actually be used to create something. There aren’t many of them though.
- cannot use the headset to play Xbox One games on a large virtual screen
Can you imagine that 😀
- impossible to use VorpX to play non-VR games in VR
- no integrated headphones
A minor issue since only the more expensive PC systems have it
- no hardware adjustment to IPD
A minor issue since PSVR software adjustment works up to 70 mm
If the pros in your evaluation overwhelm the cons, you have a choice – PSVR. If you have some questions about it, please take a look at this list and you may find the answer.
In case cons are not acceptable please read on.
Windows Mixed Reality: Samsung Odyssey, Lenovo Explorer, Dell Visor, Acer and HP.
Other systems: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive & Vive Pro.
Pros of WMR:
- better screen resolution
Only Vive Pro beats the majority of WMRs and matches Samsung Odyssey however, it is more expensive than any of them.
- the play area is limited only by the length of the cable (~4m)
- easier to use once everything is installed and configured
WMRs do not require any additional auxiliary equipment like sensors, base stations etc. All they need is a PC.
- minimal hardware requirements which are less demanding
WMRs work with certain graphics cards which are integrated into the processor so you don’t need to buy a graphics card at all. That comes at a cost – the display framerate is 60Hz instead of 90 recommended for top quality VR experience. Of course you can upgrade your system later.
- tracking of the controllers is somewhat limited
When they are out of field of view of the cameras installed in the headset or too close to them, tracking becomes erratic. It is not bad, just annoying for some games.
- no official VorpX support
That may change in the future.
- official support for WMR on Steam (the biggest repository of VR games) is rather sparse
That’s a minor issue. Most games work fine on any WMR nevertheless. Occasionally you may find that some of them are a bit buggy.
- playing Oculus games may not be as good as on the Oculus Rift itself
That’s mostly due to the fact that Oculus Touch controllers are the best at the moment. As a side note it’s worth noting that the Oculus Store is widely credited as the best content provider.
- issues with USB 3.0
The issue is major, however only Vive doesn’t use it (Vive Pro does).
- the fit between the face and the visor (front part of the headset) may be too loose
Other headsets are built as goggles so they sit on your face as tight as you choose. As a result they won’t wobble when you shake your head.
If cons win, click here. Otherwise please read on.
Samsung Odyssey vs other WMRs.
Pros of Samsung Odyssey:
- hardware adjustment to IPD
Software adjustment for other WMRs has an upper limit of 67 mm.
- quality headphones and microphone integrated with the headset
That’s more convenient than using the external ones.
Cons in comparison with other WMRs:
- more expensive
- heavier than others
That affects the comfort.
If pros shine, you have made a choice: Samsung Odyssey – congratulations 😎
If you prefer a cheaper WMR than Samsung, Lenovo Explorer seems to be the next best choice.
Other WMRs are not bad at all and are worth considering if the price is right.
Pros of both Vives (Vive and Vive Pro) vs the Rift:
- God Rays less glaring
- better fit for glasses
You can adjust the eye relief for the headset which creates more space for glasses.
- bigger play area
If you don’t have a spare area of 11 ft x 11 ft (3.5 m x 3.5 m), this advantage is useless.
- Vive Tracker
There are no trackers for Oculus. There is not much you can do with the Vive Tracker at the moment though.
Pros of the Vive Pro vs Vive & Rift:
- huge play area: 33ft x 33ft (10m x 10m)
Useful only after you upgrade your headset to be wireless (that’s upcoming).
- more comfortable
Some people dispute this, claiming that the Vive with Deluxe Audio Strap is equally comfortable.
Pros of the Vive vs Rift & Vive Pro:
- doesn’t need troublesome USB 3.0
Cons of both Vives vs the Rift:
- too much sweating may damage Vive and Vive Pro
There are problems with having it fixed under warranty.
- both are more expensive
Vive Pro is significantly more expensive than the Vive.
- controllers are less ergonomic and less capable than Oculus Touch
You can play Oculus games using Vives but the experience may not be as good though.
- smaller sweet spot
If cons feel more significant, choose the Rift.
Otherwise, using pros specific for the Vive and Vive Pro and remembering that Pro is more expensive, you can narrow down your choice to a single device.
Bear in mind that Vive Pro is compatible with Base Station 1.0 and 2.0. Vive will only work with 1.0.
The best VR systems at this point are: HTC Vive Pro and Samsung Odyssey. They have the highest resolution and a wide field of view.
Pros of the Vive Pro:
- tracking of the controllers is accurate everywhere in the play area
Tracking of the Odyssey Controllers has some blind spots. Most games work just fine with perhaps, some occasional glitches.
- more games with official support for the Vive
A minor advantage. Games usually work with Samsung even when there is no official support for this system.
- Vive Tracker
The tracker can be attached to any object to make it part of the game. There is not much you can do with it at the moment.
- adjustment of the eye relief
That’s useful for making more space for glasses if you need them.
Cons of the Vive Pro:
- too much sweating can damage the headset
Having it fixed under warranty can be a problem.
- more expensive
- Vive Controllers have no thumbsticks and no removable battery
When they die you have to plug them in for charging. Odyssey Controllers have removable batteries – you can easily swap them for some fresh ones.
- more demanding system requirements
Samsung delivers 60 Hz frame rate when run on a weak PC. 90 Hz is a minimum for optimal VR comfort. Of course you can always buy a monster graphics card later.
Pros win – choose the Vive Pro. Otherwise the Samsung Odyssey is a better choice.